In the fall and winter of 2020, former President Trump’s top lieutenants were in touch with reality: the election had not been stolen. Their guy lost.
And yet, many of them played key roles in legitimizing — or even spreading — Trump’s false claims.
Evidence made public by the Jan. 6 Committee demonstrates not only that key Trump advisers and campaign officials told the former President that he had lost. It also shows that, knowing the truth, they acted to mislead the American public.
The Jan. 6 Committee played a video recording of former Attorney General Bill Barr during the Thursday night primetime hearing, for instance.
Barr recalled telling Trump that the election fraud claims were “bullshit,” and expounded on how damaging they were to the country.
“And I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and that it was doing great, great disservice to the country,” Barr said.
But what did Barr do in 2020?
He did resign from his position in December of that year, after telling the Associated Press in a hedged statement that the DOJ had uncovered no evidence of “widespread election fraud.”
But up until his resignation — which came with a letter that obsequiously praised Trump — Barr used the power of American federal law enforcement to launder Trump’s claims.
Before the election, Barr publicly made bogus claims about “mass mail-in voter fraud” — exactly the points that Trump and his allies would make throughout November and December 2020.
Barr also lifted a longstanding DOJ policy that banned federal elections investigations from taking place until the results were certified. That policy existed specifically to prevent federal probes from calling the election results into doubt, and resulted in the longtime head of the DOJ’s elections branch’s resignation.
That, in turn, opened the floodgates to more granular problems.
BJ Pak, the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta who, TPM first reported, departed on Jan. 4, 2021, was asked by Barr to review a video that right-wing conspiracy theorists claimed showed Georgia election workers bringing in suitcases of fake ballots. By the time Pak reported upwards that it was bogus, Barr had left. Trump saw Pak as a “never-Trumper,” leading to his dismissal.
But Barr wasn’t the only one who let Trump’s claims go forward.
Jason Miller held multiple briefings with the press in the days and weeks after the 2020 election in which he claimed that the Trump campaign was victorious.
He put forth the bogus claims in other fora as well.
Victims of Voter Fraud: Deceased Pennsylvanians’ Identities Used to Vote in 2020 General Election | Donald J. Trump for President https://t.co/VqxHxlIh7n— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) November 12, 2020
Miller also piggybacked off Barr to create the impression that the election result was under investigation.
Barr authorizes Justice to probe any 'substantial allegations' of voter fraud https://t.co/Z4oQSP0yWP— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) November 10, 2020
But in testimony released by the Jan. 6 Committee, Miller recalled an Oval Office conversation in which Trump was told clearly by a campaign data expert that the claims were nonsense.
“He delivered to the President in pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose,” Miller recalled.
Other campaign officials — including one Trump campaign attorney — recalled how clear it was within the campaign that Trump had lost. Alex Cannon, a campaign lawyer, recalled Mark Meadows saying “there’s no there there” upon hearing that attorneys had not found evidence of fraud. That was in November.
But instead of conceding, the campaign spent months contesting the results of an election that it knew it had lost.
The conclusion heavily implied — but left partly unconfirmed by Thursday night’s presentation — is that Trump himself knew Biden had won.
But it was thanks to his enablers who told him behind the scenes that he had lost but publicly suggested that the result was in doubt that so many were misled.